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UFC 120 Main Event Breakdown: Michael Bisping vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama

Regardless of its main event status, the middleweight fight between Michael Bisping and Yoshihiro Akiyama that will close out UFC 120 is not a match with major title implications, a rarity for headline bouts in the promotion.

Bisping, after all, is just 2-2 in his last four fights while Akiyama is just 1-1 since beginning his career in the octagon. Instead, it's simply a respectable matchup of high-caliber fighters, one of whom is extremely popular in the area hosting the event, another extremely popular in the area in which the promoter would like to be hosting future events.

That aside, however, it is also happens to be extremely competitive matchmaking. An inside look at the stats shows just how similar they've performed in recent bouts.

According to Compustrike numbers, Bisping has landed 31 percent of his arm strikes over his last 12 fights, while Akiyama has landed 36 percent of his. Bisping lands 57 percent of kicks, Akiyama lands 60. On the ground, Bisping throws an average of 30 strikes, landing at a 63 percent clip, while Akiyama throws an average of 28, landing 57 percent.

Still, it's also a perfect example of how perception influences odds.

According to linesmakers, Bisping (19-3) is a 2-to-1 favorite over Akiyama (13-2, 2 no contests), meaning he has a 67 percent probability of winning. While Bisping's popularity (maybe "notoriety" is a better word) dictates the discrepancy, in reality, the skill sets of the main event participants are much closer.

There are two main differences in the competitors that may help decide the match.

First, Akiyama is a brilliant takedown artist, using his judo to strong effect by taking down his opponent on nine of his last 11 attempts. This works perfectly into Bisping's biggest weakness, his takedown defense. Over his last 12 fights, opponents have been successful on 20 of 31 tries (65 percent) a huge number.

If Akiyama can close the range, threaten and connect with takedowns, the dynamic of the fight moves in his favor. We've seen how often judges are influenced by takedowns and throws, even if nothing of consequence follows.

Bisping though, has proven himself over time to have an extraordinary quality: he can't be held down. No matter who he's been in the cage with, he has a knack of finding a way to his feet in short order, minimizing the damage or submission attempts that would ordinarily follow.

It should also be noted that while Bisping's takedown prevention is no thing of beauty, he's pretty good on the offensive side, putting his opponents on their back in 17 of his last 24 tries.

On the ground, nothing is likely to be decided. Bisping has never been submitted in his pro career while Akiyama tapped out for the first time in his UFC 116 loss to Chris Leben, though it was with just 20 seconds left, and after a three-round slugfest.

If the fight stays standing, it could trend either way. Bisping is a polished striker who uses movement well -- at least aside from his disastrous loss to Dan Henderson in which he circled to Henderson's power side -- to stay out of harm's way. He is more of a volume puncher than a slugger, though he and his Wolfslair camp have continued to insist that his power keeps improving from camp to camp.

Bisping is also reportedly the biggest he's been since moving to middleweight, which could add some extra sting to his shots.

Akiyama is the more dangerous one-punch striker, as he's show an ability to hurt middleweights despite being considered small for the division. He counterpunches well and has an excellent chin.

Much has been made of Akiyama's conditioning issues in the past. For this camp, he worked with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city at elevation, which could pay dividends in a fight that seems destined to go the whole 15 minutes.

Ultimately though, it seems that Bisping's volume is often too much to overcome. He puts pressure on his opponents with an indefatigable workrate, and that combined with Akiyama's past cardio struggles is a big enough reason to give him a slight edge.

Akiyama should certainly get his shots in, maybe even a few takedowns, but he spends 68 percent of his fights in a standup position, and this time around, that favors the busier fighter.

Unless he shows off some newfound firepower, Bisping is unlikely to blow away the durable Akiyama, so expect a close fight that will ultimately be decided by the judges determining whether Bisping's volume or Akiyama's power won the day. In other words, exactly the type of fight that causes controversy in the morning. Bisping via split decision.

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